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Carlo Ancelotti Won Real Madrid La Decima with Marcelo and Isco Substitutions

Real Madrid finally have La Decima.
Real Madrid finally have La Decima.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2016

Most Real Madrid supporters will remember the moment their team won La Decima as Gareth Bale stretching out his neck and heading the ball into the top-right corner of Thibaut Courtois' net.

That was, after all, the motion that effectively ended the game, breaking Atletico's weary spirits that had fought on while they physically fell away.

But the key to the game lay in Carlo Ancelotti's double substitution, just before the hour mark.

Carlo Ancelotti's substitutions won Madrid the cup.
Carlo Ancelotti's substitutions won Madrid the cup.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Things were not going well for Real, who trailed Atletico 1-0 after Diego Godin's scruffy, brilliantly "Atletico" goal.

The centre-back nodded home after an Iker Casillas mistake and it looked like we were witnessing another standard Diego Simeone performance.

Madrid were playing in a disjointed fashion, with the front three of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema disconnected from the midfield.

Sami Khedira replaced the suspended Xabi Alonso but was off the pace, while Luka Modric had an uncharacteristically poor first half.

Angel di Maria did his best to link midfield and attack but struggled against the power and energy of Gabi, Tiago, Koke and Raul Garcia.

But when Ancelotti hauled off Khedira and left-back Fabio Coentrao, it changed the game.

Di Maria was the best of Madrid's midfielders.
Di Maria was the best of Madrid's midfielders.Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

Back in March at the Vicente Calderon, Ancelotti made similar changes.

He brought on Marcelo for Coentrao and then later introduced Isco and Daniel Carvajal.

It changed the momentum of the match and helped Cristiano Ronaldo score a last-minute equaliser to make the score 2-2.

And once again Ancelotti's moves paid off, with Sergio Ramos heading home in style to send the Champions League final into extra time.

From there Madrid ran riot, with Isco pulling the strings alongside Modric in centre midfield, and Marcelo providing extra width down the left.

The Brazilian's attacking thrust caught Atletico out and was useful when Simeone's side were forced to go for an equaliser.

Marcelo netted the third as Madrid eventually ran out 4-1 winners at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.

When Marcelo and Isco came on, Real Madrid switched to 4-4-2.

Ronaldo and Benzema were the two strikers, Bale played as a right midfielder and Di Maria played on the left side.

That was how the goal that won the game, effectively, was scored.

Isco (left) helped turn the tide.
Isco (left) helped turn the tide.Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

Di Maria's effort from the left was saved by Courtois and the ball fell for Bale, who just about managed to keep his header under the crossbar.

Di Maria was given the man of the match award after the game, after he impressed at the stadium of his former side, Benfica, but Marcelo would also have been a worthy recipient for his impact.

That said, Real Madrid also had other heroes on Saturday night.

Sergio Ramos, who scored an incredible six goals in seven games to finish the season, bagged the equaliser deep in stoppage time.

The player had spoken at a press conference on Friday and was clearly excited to be playing in his first Champions League final.

It was fitting that he, a man who embodies the club, had a huge part to play in their eventual capture of La Decima.

The 12 years since their last triumph have been long, but the obsession is over.

Ancelotti, who could so easily and unfairly have been disposed of had they not triumphed, is the man who has brought the much-coveted 10th European Cup to Real Madrid.

And when he looks back, he will savour the whole journey. But perhaps, in particular, his double substitution.

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